Interview with

Alessandro Baldasseroni

Character artist

Hello Alessandro, we are really proud to talk to a great artist like you!

              Thanks for the opportunity, pleasure is mine ☺

 

1. Why did you move to the US? Tell us a bit about your experience.

I used to work full time in videogames in Milan at Milestone, in those years in between 2002 and 2006.
At that time  i  was very active in doing personal artworks in my spare time and posting them online on forums, mostly CGtalk (the actual CG society ) and on a few others.
The online popularity helped me to get noticed by a few companies outside Italy and among them Blur Studio expressed some specific interest for my work.
Blur asked me if I was interested in doing some remote freelancing for them on character modeling and I accepted gladly because it was a real challenge considering that before that i always made characters just for fun but never professionally.
They seemed to be pretty satisfied with my work on characters, and I freelanced for them for more than a year….

Alessandro Baldasseroni

 

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Keep in mind at that time I had my regular full time job at Milestone, so I had to make time to work on Blur`s assets after work in the evening and often in the weekends to be able to deliver on time.
At some point Blur asked me if I was interested in relocating in house to Venice (CA), probably because they finally had an open position as staff character modeler.
I didn`t think about it twice , i accepted with enthusiams . Blur put their lawyers at work to get me a O1 Visa (working permit for the US). The whole process took about 8 months and finally I moved to Los angeles in october 2007.

2. Do you think the transition from 2D to 3D is physiological?

I`m not sure, maybe still not necessarely, it really depends on what someone feels motivated in doing. I never attended art schools, it`s one of my biggest regrets, so playing with 3D for me was a way to make something visually appealing without having those kind of traditional 2D skills.
I know tons of people perfectly happy with their 2D skills, making a living out of it as professionals and really not caring of trying 3D programs , maybe just marginally.
That said 3d in modern days is getting more integrated into concept art, so even painters or designers use it extensively, especially the new generation.

3. You work as Character Artist at Riot Games, what does it mean to be part of a large company in the US?

It`s sometimes overwhelming in the sense that is hard to grasp everything that is going on through the company.
Riot has more than 1700 employees only in the Los Angeles campus and of course it`s impossible to know each one of them and what`s their role in the company. The feeling is that we are on the same mission but sometimes is hard to see how your contribute fits into the big picture.
There`s a lot of enthusiasm all around and sometimes is contagious but there are times when working hours become really intense, especially when deadlines are approaching.

4. What’s the difference between working in Italy and the US?

The first palpable thing I noticed was a sense of meritocracy based exclusively on skills.
The system here can have some flaws but one good thing is that the working environments reward people based on their skills and they don’t care where they come from, who recommended them and what they brag about. If you are worth something here it will get noticed, no matter what.
Also the working hours are averagely more intense, not to mention the overtimes (especially in the film industry) but generally speaking the remuneration are way more generous than any place I have ever worked.

5. Is there any difference in creating characters depending on their destination like movies, games or advertising?

Absolutely. Without going too much into specific  cases we can say that the differences are mostly in the technical execution. Films and commercials are most of the times pre rendered frame by frame so in most cases follow the same methodology when it comes to the creation of characters.
Games instead need to run into a real time engines, so characters for games in general have more technical specification and rules of execution (not to mention optimizations) compared to films and games. Most of the times creating characters for games means creating an high resolution sculpting first, and a lower resolution model where to bake the high res information from the high resolution one after.
The high resolution information are conveyed via normal maps and the packing in the texture sheets has to be carefully planned  in order to optimize memory and increase efficiency. This usually doesn`t happen in Films and commercials, where the trend is to have way denser assets, to use displacement for high res details and have way less constraints when it comes to textures. Generally speaking characters for films are higher in data density (more polygons/bigger textures).
This used to be even more noticeable 10 years ago, in modern days with the advent of new graphic cards, hardware and new generation consoles the differences between character assets for films and games are becoming less staggering and we`ll probably reach a point  in the future where hardware  and real time engines will be so powerful and sophisticated to be able to run in  real time the same  assets we use now for films and commercials.

6. What do you think are the most important things that an artist needs in order to become a high-level professional like you?

Thanks for the compliment. If i have to think about some aspects of my personality that helped me through my career I can list:

  1. Passion for your job/craft. It really helps to love what you, seems banal but it really helps to overcome frustrations and challenges that inevitably will come along the way.
  2. Try to treat every work you do as if it is has to be your best. This helps to have consistency in your portfolio and to find reasons improve your skills constantly .
  3. Less talk and more art. You need to practice. A lot. Don`t be afraid of your current level and keep working on your craft even when you feel you are stalling. It`s the only way to get better.

 

7. What is your signature piece of art? How did you do it?

It`s probably a cover/illustration for Games workshop for their  “Age of Sigmar” campaign. I`m a big fan of Warhammer and i still consider a honor that they requested me to do a cover  for them considering the caliber of the illustrators that they usually use for these kind of jobs.
https://alessandrobaldasseroni.com/#/stormcast-eternal/
The illustration has a solid 3D base done in 3D studiomax, zbrush, Mari and rendered in Vray. Post processing, paintover and compositing was done in Photoshop.

8. What software do you prefer in your workflow?

In no particular order:
Poly Modeling : 3d studio max, Maya (vray and Arnold as render engines)
Rendering/presentations : Keyshot
High poly sculpting : Zbrush
Cloth modeling /Marvelous designer
Texturing / 3d painting : Mari , Substance Painter
Texturing / all purpose :  Photoshop
References : Pureref

9. You also collaborate with the Gnomon School of Visual Effects. What advice do you give to your students?

I`ve done a dvd for Gnomon a while ago and few random unformal presentations in the past.
I`ve always tried to portrait a realistic image of my profession, keeping the glamour on the side and focusing on what`s needed and requested to do my job.
The general advice is to try to figure out even as a student what you really like to do and pursue in this industry as soon as possible, because it`s becoming quite specialized and very competitive. Also i always recommended to have an online presence and to be well aware of the current state of the art of whatever discipline you want to choose, again, online forums and communities and social medias can provide this kind of valuable information.

10. If you could go back in time, would you change something in your life?

I`d probably pursue artistic studies instead of technical ones like i did and I`d probably move abroad earlier than i did .

 

Thank you Alessandro and good luck for everything!!